Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pilot Season: Suburgatory (Score One for the Teenage Cynics)

FYI, She's smiling sarcastically.
I might have a few things to update today, but first I’d like to extend the happy news that New Girl got the first full season pickup of the year, and will be gracing our screens until May.  This is after It won it’s timeslot for the first two episodes, and became a critical darling, so I guess I can see why FOX made the choice.  If you want to read the article, Entertainment Weekly has more details here.

Now back to the show (literally):

SUBURGATORY (ABC Wednesday 8:30 EST)

I have to get this out: I do not know what universe Suburgatory is supposed to take place in.  I have never been to a town or even housing development that was as white bread or terrifyingly clean as the one portrayed in this show*.  It’s just so…creepy.

You can tell how happy she is to be here.
And that is, of course, the point of the show.  Suburbia as hell, which, if this is suburbia, I can completely understand.  Tessa (Jane Levy, who I’d never seen before, but is surprisingly good) is moved from Manhattan out to the ‘burbs by her overprotective father George (Jeremy Sisto) when he finds an unopened box of condoms in her room.  She hates it.  He hates it.  But he’s determined to make sure that his daughter has as normal and wholesome an adolescence as is humanly possible, especially now that he’s seen the possibilities otherwise. 

Tessa’s grown up without a mother, and her biggest shock in suburbia is the moms.  How they’re all pink and plastic and drink sugar-free Red Bull.  Most notably, Cheryl Hines’ Dallas, mother to Tessa’s “buddy” Dinah, who insists on giving Tessa some unwanted motherly advice.  There's a pretty hilarious shopping trip for a “nice heterosexual dress shoe”**.  Alan Tudyk also turned up as a friend of George’s, encouraging George to take advantage of all of the bored, attractive housewives.  Suburbia was pretty thoroughly condemned, and I could see why (even if I still refuse to believe this place really exists).

Not gonna lie, it was awesome.
But there were moments of humanity.  George’s genuine pain at the realization that his daughter might be sexually active was compelling.  And his dawning understanding that the suburbs weren’t going to change that, was also a little sad.  There’s a hilarious, but also depressing, scene over dinner, where Tessa flaunts her mall-bought skank outfit in front of her father, who wants her to conform, and he realizes that perhaps his daughter shouldn’t change.  She’s fine the way she is.

There’s also the end, which, frankly, was my favorite part.  After demoralizing Tessa on the shopping trip, and pointing out that her sports bra is fugly (which it was, and I am in favor of comfortable undergarments), Dallas comes to Tessa with a present.  A really nice bra.  Because she knows that Tessa doesn’t have a mother around, that this is something they would have done together, and that sometimes even the unwilling need a little mothering.  I liked that.

Sweet.  In an invasive, mean way.
Analytically, I have to say the show works for me.  Tessa’s a real girl.  She’s funny and sarcastic, and not very interested in using her breasts to get what she wants, but she’s also not utterly convinced that she’s a hosebeast or anything.  She’s just…normal.  I miss that.  When did that leave our tv screens?  Because it’s nice to actually related to a character.  The suburban caricatures are funny (and at times hilarious, like the woman who is now stalking George), but the best humor comes from the fleshed out characters, like Tessa and George and Dallas.  The ones with hearts that can be broken, and minds for making quips.

Plot wise, I hope it improves a little, because “new girl comes to town, hates it, learns to like it just a little” is horrifically generic, but I approved of the lack of love interest.  Tessa’s a big girl.  She doesn’t need a boy to hold her hand, and this show doesn’t need romantic tension to get it through.  It’s doing just fine.

So, no, it didn’t blow my socks off.  But it was nice, and I liked it, and I think Tessa is genuinely cool.  I will totally watch this again.

Suburbia’s still not a real thing, though.

And I refuse to believe anyone ever bought that outfit.

*But I have often been told that my childhood experiences are not a good baseline, in the same way that a salad is not a good baseline comparison for cheeseburgers.  Oh well.

**I wore Birkenstocks and combat boots all through high school and college.  This resonated.

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